Married on 9/11: Americans reclaim a difficult date

 The bride was a vision in white organza, the groom, perfection in a pearl gray suit. When the dancing and toasts were over, the couple was left with cherished wedding memories, but a rather awkward anniversary date: September 11.

"We knew we wanted to get married in the fall of 2009. I thought September seemed like a good month because it cools off a little here in Austin, (Texas) and also it's the month my parents got married," said Holley Simons, who will celebrate her second wedding anniversary on Sunday.

Process of elimination led the betrothed couple to weed out various prospective wedding dates until they landed upon September 11 for their nuptials -- despite the associations with national tragedy and mourning.

"I was a bit self-conscious at first when people would ask our wedding date," said Simons. "At first I panicked and thought we had to change it," she said.

But allowing herself to go forward with a 9/11 ceremony also meant reclaiming a day that many see as off-limits for any sort of festive event.

"I would not want to disrespect those who died or lost loved ones in the attacks, but I think celebrating a marriage to the person you love is a good way to say, 'Life goes on'," Simons said.

"At least I hope that's how they would take it."

Across America, contrarians like Simons are reclaiming the September 11th date, and making it more like any other day on the calendar.

For some, weary of the constant associations of sadness and tragedy, 9/11 is a date when it is once again allowed to host a dinner party, plan a bar mitzvah or hold a bridal shower.

This year, on the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks, hundreds if not thousands of commemorative events, large and small, are planned all across the United States.

But there are some who feel that the best way to honor the nearly 3,000 people who died in the Al-Qaeda attacks is simply to get on with the mundane business of everyday life.

The 9/11 date quandary was faced by organizers of this year's Takoma Park Folk Festival, an annual celebration of American roots music in Maryland that for decades has been held on the second Sunday in September.

"Of course we talked about it, and what it would mean for the festival this year," said Colleen Clay, the chairwoman of this year's event, recounting how the organizers reacted once they realized that the second Sunday in September this year is on September 11.

"People briefly said should we do something different? Should we keep our same date? We decided that we would have it on September 11," said Clay, who also serves on Takoma Park's City Council.

The group's decision to stick with the 9/11 date is "a little bit about normalizing (it), and a little bit of that is about embracing what that date is," said Clay. "September 11 is a part of our lives."

Organizers decided to give this Sunday's Folkfest, to be attended by about 5,000 people, a special focus on the themes of peace and healing.

"We talked about how, as we move forward as a community and as well as a nation, that we be able to work toward reconciliation around all kinds of things, but also the kinds of conflict that lead us to the kind of violence that we have in our society," she said.

Making the decision not to change the festival's date was harder four years ago in 2005 -- the first time that the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks fell on a Sunday.

But even then, when emotions were considerably more raw, Clay said they were committed to going forward with the event.

"The thinking the first time it fell on September 11 was, 'we're going to move forward. We're not going to let the terrorists win'," she said.

Meanwhile, the National Football League (NFL), said it never considered scheduling Sunday's gridiron extravaganza -- the first day of the season for most teams -- on any day other than September 11 this year.

Americans by the millions will spend at least part of this September 11 at sports bars and in front of the TV screens, watching their favorite teams and archrivals collide.

"We felt it was appropriate to continue our Sunday schedule with a full slate of games," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told AFP, adding various tributes planned Sunday on the football field will "showcase and salute the resilient spirit of America."

"Sports have always played a unifying role in good times and bad," said McCarthy.

With football being America's most popular sport, "the NFL in particular has the ability to bring people together," he said.


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